Next month’s Donnybrook Cup international between the USA and Ireland is being built into a full day of festivities in an effort to attract new fans to rugby football.
The St Patrick’s Day Test match between the Tomahawks and Wolfhounds, the eighth in the history of the contests, will be the main event, but there will be other games on the day at Widener University near Philadelphia and festivities at Harrah’s Casino in Chester, PA, that evening.
Event organizers want to expose rugby football to as many locals as possible in the tri-state area.
The curtain-raiser will feature local rugby clubs Hibernians and Northeast Irish, both of which compete in the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union. Prior to that there will be a High School game featuring Bonner High School, a team coached by USA Tomahawk assistant coach Jeff Preston, and St Augustine Prep.
The Hibernians is a rugby union club with connections to rugby league that date back some time. It spun off in the 1990s to form the Bucks County Sharks, formerly the New Jersey Sharks, of the AMNRL and since then the two have coexisted sharing many of the same players, equipment and fields.
“Having the Northeast Irish, a newly formed Rugby Union team, and the Hibernians be part of this day will expose many new players to the sport of Rugby League,” said Justin Zadnik of the Hibernians and a former Tomahawk. “It is also an amazing opportunity to showcase their skills to the AMNRL coaches.
“At the end of the day, there are more similarities between Union and League than there are differences so we need to focus on the fact that people have a rugby ball in their hands and go from there. Ultimately it is one nation under footy, and we look forward to being part of an exciting day of competition.”
Northeast Irish promotes itself as a new rugby club that offers something athletically challenging, socially enjoyable and unique to American society.
“It's truly a grassroots endeavor; most of the members are under 25 years of age and haven't played before,” commented Northeast Irish head coach Joe Grohovsky. “Their participation in The Donnybrook Cup is going to give them a glimpse of international class rugby players up close and personal.
“It's my guess that many of them will find League as intriguing as they find Union. The actual code is largely irrelevant since there is almost no overlap between seasons and a player can easily participate in both. This is important because these young men can now avail themselves of something constructive for nine months of the year, instead of the idle or destructive behavior that occurs all too often.”
While fulltime of the main game will end the day’s activities on the field, it will also signal the start of entertainment over at Harrah’s Casino, the event’s presenting sponsor, for players and fans alike including music by Philadelphia-based Irish band Blackthorn.